Full disclosure: I’m currently running a Kickstarter campaign to create a board game related accessory (hopefully that’s not news).
Almost every blog and podcast now features a discussion about Kickstarter and its potential impact on the board gaming hobby. Why should this blog be different? Here are a few of the themes that almost always surface:
1. The quality of the games that will be created by first-time creators will lower quality compared to those from established publishers.
2. Eventually, the creditability of of Kickstarter-funded game development will be harmed by a project that either fails to deliver what was described, or delivers nothing at all.
3. The Kickstarter ‘craze’ will begin to wane as a result of the above two themes.
So, are these 3 theories accurate? In 5 years, what impact will Kickstarter have had on the hobby? No one knows the real answer, but here is my opinion.
I’ve been in the board gaming hobby for at least 10 years, and in that time, the number of games being brought to market each year continues to rise. This growth trend was in motion before the Kickstarter mania. Now with Kickstarter, even more games are created and marketed each year. Another equally gamer-friendly trend is the rise of IOS gaming, which logically should have taken market share away from the board gaming hobby as consumers could simply pay the small fee for the IOS version and not need to invest in the physical copy of the game. According to many game publishers, the IOS versions actually end up causing more sales of physical copies. So, simply put, more games are hitting the market than ever before in the hobby games market.
In many ways, the growth in board gaming seems similar to the rise in PC\console games. In both PC\console gaming, the number of games published each year seems to rise. If you look at the Wii platform, which appears to have fairly loose publishing requirements, there are tons of games published each year. If you were to chart these games, they probably would fall into a bell curve with some incredible games..and some terrible games. If you just look at higher number of games being published, logic would dictate that game buyers should be treated to some great games.
The net effect of the increasing number of games on the market will likely be that gamers will become more selective in their purchases. In recent years, an avid gamer could take chances on games that were not proven and\or not from established publishers. I foresee that serious gamers will become more cautious in their decision making to determine if to add a game to their collection or not. To attract these more selective gamers, more elaborate Kickstarter campaigns will become required to rise over the sea of average offerings. I would predict some very large-scale campaigns from established publishers will soon begin to appear. The marketing appeal of Kickstarter is simply too large for even established companies to overlook. Expect highly polished videos and some really unique reward offerings.
I imagine that some established publishers might be concerned that the Kickstarter phenomena may start to shrink their slice of the gamer’s budget. I would expect that they will react with one of their best weapons that will be hard for independent publishers to compete with….using licensed properties. Regardless of how good some of the independent games are, the use of recognizable characters and themes is a strong draw for some gamers.
The fact that the Kickstarter funding platform exists may drive the entire industry to improve. Gamers will have even more games to pick from. Producing games that will rise above the average titles will be the challenge for publishers to meet. This could translate into great times ahead for gamers.
The last point I will make is that Kickstarter’s project structure allows game designers to get immediate input from players before the game goes to print. In my opinion, this is the most exciting element of Kickstarter. Small issues will often be resolved and this may allow some games to make the leap from an average title to a great title.
So, are the 3 premises correct?
1. Quality will suffer – In terms of quality, yes, the quality of games from established publishers will be better than most independent games. If they aren’t, what extra value is being provided?
2. Kickstarter credibility – Quite possibly a scandal will happen, but I think it’s unlikely to derail the viability of Kickstarter as a path of game publishing.
3. The Kickstarter craze will subside – I doubt it. I believe that the campaigns will get very ambitious and elaborate to attract backers and those companies who are able to find the formula for engaging gamers will raise lots of $$ for their projects.
Of course, this is just the opinion of a gamer who is optimistic about the future of the hobby.